Though "sporty" is the least likely adjective that might ever be applied to the Weasel, my daily exercise draws comments from impressed observers. If you happened to be strolling on the promenade of a Yorkshire seaside resort around 9am in the past week, you would have seen the Weasel breasting the waves in stately fashion. Why I am (as a general rule) the only human over the age of about eight to engage in this activity at Filey is a mystery even to me. In order to encourage others to take a dip, I present my diary of matutinal manoeuvres in the North Sea.
Day 1. Though invitingly blue from a distance, the sea at Filey is a discouraging grey/brown at close quarters. Since it was high tide, my attempt at gradual acclimatisation provided welcome entertainment for strollers on the promenade. While the North Sea has grown perceptibly warmer in recent years due to global warming, this morning it wasn't. My digits felt like frozen fish fingers for the first 200 strokes (I tend to keep count). Mirroring my progress from the safety of the shore, Mrs W was quizzed by startled spectators. "How far has he come?" inquired a holidaymaker. "From the far end of the prom," she replied, but "London" would have been equally accurate (and much more impressive).
Day 2. "Do you think you should go in?" inquired Mrs W. Despite the ragged, raging breakers, I insisted that the sea was fine. My customary snail-like entrance into the briny was accelerated by a large wave that delivered a haymaker to the side of my head – BOFF! – and I was in whether I liked it or not. Swimming in agitated seas is (touch wood) the only time in the course of a year that a peace-loving fellow gets roughed up. The churning, foamy mixture of air and water felt uncannily familiar. It was like swimming in cappuccino or a very large latte indeed.
Day 3. "You're not going in at all today!" insisted Mrs W. The sea-fret, or harr, did indeed pose a problem. There was a distinct likelihood of heading for the Hook of Holland in the thick mist. But it lifted somewhat and the sun-lit haze endowed the coastline with an unlikely romance. Opalescent in the distance, Filey was visible as a blurred silhouette. It might have been Cap Ferrat or the Lido at Venice. Well, almost. The water was pleasingly tepid after a bracing moment at entry (however much the globe warms the North Sea is never going to be mistaken for the Caribbean). As I hauled through the calm sea, the fret separated into tall columns like striding ghosts and raced me along the beach. The spectres won.
Day 4. A grey sea met a grey sky at an indistinguishable horizon. The town was pale pastel, the only speck of brightness being the flashing orange light of a rubbish truck. As I trudged into the sea, breakers slammed into me. I felt like the Old Man of Hoy. Once again, my stately progress aroused curiosity among early morning strollers. "Is he all right?" a woman asked Mrs W, meaning, I suppose, in the head. After 1,000 strokes I returned to civilisation, though I use the term loosely, since the first figure I encountered was an ageing punk with a pink Mohican and an "Alien Sex Fiend" T-shirt.
Day 5. Today, the breakers were not in pugilistic mood. It was more like having your hair washed in a posh hairdressers by a particularly brusque trainee. Circling gulls came for a gander at the intruder in their manor. I didn't take much notice of this inspection until I saw a report in the Scarborough Evening News about a bather getting pecked (that sort of thing is big news in these parts) so now I try to splash them if they get too near. Struggling to my feet after a mile or so, I thought that I cut an impressive nautical figure as I sploshed my way to the beach, but Mrs W deposed King Neptune. "You've got a mud moustache," she pointed out.
Day 6. Astonishingly, I was joined at the mid-point of my swim by two couples in their twenties. The males of the party spent several minutes posing and flexing their muscles before running into the waves. The females screamed continuously during their brief immersion. I decided that I didn't much like company at sea. "They whizzed about you like tug-boats round the Queen Mary," reported Mrs W. At least I resemble one maritime monarch.
The magazine of pastoral pleasures Country Life recently published a list of rural sounds both pleasurable (birdsong, church bells, bees, steam trains ... ) and irksome (strimmers, off-road motorbikes, flightpaths, barking ... ). While generally in agreement (though the mag's view about the joyous noise of cricket would not survive proximity to cricketers' chat), the list omits some notable country clamour. Between pigeons, lawnmowers and the ice-cream van that ceaselessly plays the Match of the Day theme, our bit of countryside should be a prime target for the Noise Abatement Society. Hidden in the clouds, a roaring bevy of fighters above Sainsbury's in Scarborough sounded like the Last Trump. There also seems to be a lot of whistling in the countryside. An unidentified party living nearby goes at it with all the tunefulness of a dentist's drill, from dawn to dusk. Then there is the pestilential din of inadequately maintained vehicles. "Aye, we knew you'd arrived," said David, our next-door neighbour. "We heard your car."